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Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Day birding: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge - Part 1

The New Year's Day trip to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge has become a tradition in our family and it is one that we observed again this year. We got up before the sun and the birds in order to make the almost two-hour trip to the refuge. We wanted to get there while the birds were still in their early-morning active period. We managed to do that all right, but unfortunately, the wind was in its active period, too. It blew fiercely for the entire four-and-a-half hours that we spent at the refuge.

Flights of Snow Geese greeted us everywhere we went in the refuge. They seemed to be about two-thirds white phase geese and one-third dark, of the kind that used to be called "Blue Geese" - and still are by some.

Northern Shovelers, like this female, are common sights at the refuge.

This Lesser Yellowlegs probed for tasty morsels in a shallow pond.

Out on the bay, a small flock of Lesser Scaup floated on the sparkling waves.

Even farther out across the bay, a group of four White Pelicans, of which this was one, winged their way toward the Bolivar Peninsula.

A large flock of Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding very actively in the bay waters. Note the very long, thin bills typical of all mergansers.

The little Pied-billed Grebes are among my favorite water birds.

Most bodies of water of any size in Southeast Texas are likely to have some of these guys on them. American Coots are among our most common water birds.

The Forster's Tern is one of the most common terns along this stretch of the Gulf Coast and it was the only species of tern that I saw this day.

The Double-crested Cormorant is also ubiquitous here, although this was the only one that I saw during the time we were there.

This Ring-billed Gull was also the only one of its kind that I saw.

Long, skinny, yellow legs and a slightly upturned bill, along with a white "eyebrow" mark this as a Greater Yellowlegs. He cooperatively posed while standing on a rock.

We started our visit at the Skillern Tract section of the refuge. (If you've never been there, the entrance to it is on the right just about seven miles past the main refuge entrance.) It is a very birdy place and is where several of these pictures were taken, as well as more that I will show you in part 2 of my report tomorrow.

We ended our day with 46 species on our checklist and, as always, with regrets for the ones that got away. There were others that we could have had with a little more luck, less wind, better equipment, not to mention better birding skills. Still, 46 species is not a terrible way to start a new year of birding. I'll take it.

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